A Line Through the Human Heart

On Sinning and Being Forgiven

James V. Schall, S.J.

Who does not long for a “sinless” world where nothing we do goes wrong, nothing we do has dire consequences for others, nothing we do need make us sorry? But we do not live in such a world. Furthermore, if we give the matter some thought—as is done in these pages—we come to see that in such a world we would not even really want to live.

Rather than talking endlessly of mercy, helping the poor, legislating ever more and newer “rights,” we will find it most refreshing to become—for a time at least—realists. If we turn a clear eye inward, we find that the source of most human ills lies, not surprisingly, within our own souls, in our habits, in our conception of what we are.

A Line Through the Human Heart is not a systematic treatise on sin and all its consequences. It is, rather, a compilation of many short reflections upon the issues that never fail to arise for all people, especially those fully aware that they are living in an imperfect world. This is a book of quiet insight that enables us to look at the reality of this world, a reality we ourselves have too often abused, for only in this way may we come to see it as something flawed, which we can begin to repair simply by our act of acknowledging what is right, what ought to be, what we want to be—beings whose sins are forgiven.

Praise for A Line Through the Human Heart

“Fr. Schall offers us a 21st century syllabus of errors all too common in our culture and country: errors about who and what man is as a rational creature in a fallen world; errors about the reality of sin and the need for forgiveness and mercy. Here, as in his other books, Fr. Schall shows that true happiness for man consists in knowing who he is and ‘what is’—that he find the truth about God, man, and the world.”

— Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., editor emeritus of Homiletic & Pastoral Review

“At a time when sin and forgiveness—as well as the related roles of punishment, mercy, and compassion—are widely misunderstood, Fr. Schall draws on the Great Philosophical Tradition and Christianity to illuminate the connection between sin and free will. With his customary clarity, logical rigor, and concision, he explains why justice requires the acknowledgment of wrongdoing and punishment, demonstrating that any attempt to define sin away results, ironically, in a world at war with reality, in which forgiveness would be impossible.”

— Anne Carson Daly, scholar and educator, former president of Mount Saint Mary College

About the Author

James V. Schall, S.J.

James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University. He is currently in residence at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, California. Among his books are: The Mind That Is Catholic; The Sum Total of Human Happiness; Reasonable Pleasures; and On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs.